The huddle. It’s a girl thing. A group is hanging out and someone pulls out their phone, taps on the camera and boom – everyone huddles into each other. Faces squished together, big smiles, say cheese…click! It’s a great moment. Everyone looks fantastic – except for the two on the end. Right? How does that happen almost every time? Now let me say up front that I don’t love the current obsession with plastic skin, photoshopped bodies and this obscene desire for perfection. A woman’s value isn’t found in her flawless skin or her perfect body. But can I let you in on a secret? Sometimes the camera lies. That’s right… the old saying is true, the camera can put on 10 pounds. Or 20. Knowing how to stand in front of a camera can help you look like you really are.

So back to the huddle. Those two huddle-ends really can get the wrong end of the stick. In an attempt to make themselves more a part of the group, they end up added a good 10 to 20 pounds to their frames. Totally discouraging. I recently had a family session where I noticed the huddle-end issue. Yes, it can even happen to a group of three sisters. I snapped a quick photo and then helped them stand in a more flattering light. From there, they could smile, laugh, hug, and squeeze in without having to worry about the camera telling lies!

If you ever find yourself at either end of the huddle, here are a few pointers for keeping true to size:

1. Press your bodies close together. It may feel a little awkward, but any space between each person is translated in the image as a part of a body. Generally, the space just makes the end person look bigger. Get in close with your whole body, don’t just lean with your neck and shoulders.

2. Keep your body in line with everyone else’s. The temptation in the huddle is to curve toward the camera in a U shape. I think we do this because we feel like we have to “get in the frame” but in reality, being closer to the camera only makes you look bigger. Closer = bigger. So take a step back. Maybe take two. Slip a little behind your neighbor. You’re still in the photo, I promise.

3. Don’t squish your face too much. In a group photo, squishing your face into your neighbors face shows that you’re friends…it also leaves a giant space on the other side and can alienate your neighbor or make your body look disproportionate. The brain is used to seeing the head at the center of the body. At first glance of the photo, the viewers brain will think your head is still relatively central to your body, even when you’re leaning in. It assumes that your body weight is proportional on both sides of the head and voila…you just made yourself look twice your size. Craziness.

And there you go… the better way to do the huddle! Happy snapping. :)

The Better Huddle


I photograph a lot of young families. It’s wild and fun with little children running around and playing and saying hilarious things. Creating images of families is a joy I would happily exhaust myself over! We talk a lot about young families in our culture and it seems to me that the struggles and joys of having babies, toddlers and elementary aged children often overshadow talk of the grown up family. How many TV shows about families end when the children grow up and leave home? As a child of the 90′s, I can think of my fair share of TV families who disappeared when they had grown up. Children grow older and get jobs, go to college, move out of state, get married or have their own children. The young family becomes a grown up family and things change.

The biggest change for the grown up family, are the miles that separate. It may be a few miles to the next town, or it may be several thousand miles across the country, but grown up families rarely live together in the same home. It takes time, money and sometimes a lot of planning to get the whole family back together. For the Cleek Family (below), three of their four children live in different states. One daughter is married, two are away for college and while the baby boy is still at home, they are clearly a grown up family. This year, after several Christmases separated, they all made it home to the Central Valley for the holidays. That’s a big deal. It’s such a big deal that they wanted some nice images of them all together without one of them in wedding attire. (Holidays and weddings have a way of bringing families together).

So there we all were, on a bridge in the middle of a park, celebrating the grown up family – Mom and Dad Cleek, four children and two add ons. This family may be separated by miles, but they are joined by love. Enjoy these photos then pick up the phone and call someone from your family. Your grown up family is still a family. :)

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Btw, I spent the last 15 miuntes listening to Jackie (below) sing…she has an amazing voice. You can listen to her here: Family Photo_0010 Cleek Family Photo_0011 Cleek Family Photo_0012


As the three of us headed down toward the river, I paused to size up the shoes Lisa was wearing and the steep dirt “path” ahead of us. There’s a first time for everything, but I wasn’t sure the gorgeous shoes would hold up and I definitely didn’t want to see a friend and client roll headfirst into the Waterford river. There was a slight hesitation on her part and I was ready to change our location, when Curt stuck out his hand and said “It’s ok babe. I’ve got you, we can do this.” He understood her hesitation without a word from her, and she trusted him. Hands held, with small steady steps, we all made it down to the waterside in one piece, where the two of them started flirting like teenagers.

I watched them banter back and forth, she pulled away from him only to be drawn in to a close hug, her hand never leaving his. Lisa’s face beamed and Curt was infatuated. He told me, “She’s more beautiful today than the day I married her.” That day just happened to have happened a little over 20 years ago, but you’d only know that if you watched closely. They have so much fun together, and are so in love, you would think they were still in that “new love” phase.

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Earlier that week, Lisa had mentioned a photo she liked that I had taken of a mutual friend wearing a fedora. She had liked the color scheme, but it reminded me that I had a hat that I’d been wanting to use in photos, so I brought it along and asked Lisa to model with it. Best idea ever! Seriously, Lisa’s willingness to go along with the whole thing made my day, and these photos are gorgeous!
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